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Gibbs, public face of Obama presidency, to quit White House

world Updated: Jan 06, 2011 15:27 IST

Robert Gibbs, one of the most visible and forceful advocates of Barack Obama, is stepping down as the White House Press Secretary and will now serve as an outside political adviser to the US President to boost his 2012 re-election bid.

39-year-old Gibbs, who is considered very close to Obama since his pre-election days, would leave the White House sometime in February, after the President delivers his annual State of the Union Address.

No dates for the State of the Union Address have been announced yet, but it is likely to be held in the last week of January or the first week of February.

Gibbs last evening said that he would be working as a consultant to the President outside the White House.

"It is true," he said in response to an email on his decision to resign as Press Secretary, according to CBS News.

The departure of Gibbs comes as Obama contemplates a reshuffle to freshen his administration and as his re-election campaign machinery begins to stir.

Obama said Gibbs will continue to play an important role in his team even after his departure.

"For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward," Obama said in a statement.

"I think it's natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool. That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House – but it doesn't change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team," Obama said.

No replacement for Gibbs has been named yet, though a few names immediately cropped up, including his two deputies Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, besides Jay Carney, spokesman of the US Vice President Joe Biden.

Earlier in an interview to The New York Times, Obama said Gibbs will continue to be a close adviser and "will continue to shape the dialogue politically for many years to come."

"We've been on this ride together since I won my Senate primary in 2004," Obama said. "He's had a six-year stretch now where basically he's been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay. I think it's natural for someone like Robert to want to step back for a second to reflect, retool and that as a consequence brings about both challenges and opportunities for the White House."

Gibbs, who had accompanied the President to his India visit in November, was involved in a tiff with Indian officials over the media coverage of Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.